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Is Snacking Wreaking Havoc With Your Blood Sugar And Weight?

By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 26 June 2020

We’re all guilty of snacking and occasionally grazing at our desks but is this causing havoc with our blood sugar and weight? Nutritionist Lily Soutter (www.lilysoutternutrition.com) is here to answer your questions.

Lily’s passion is to simplify the science around nutrition, to provide health hacks and smarter eating strategies to empower people to enjoy a healthy and successful lifestyle.

Her specialities lie in workplace wellness, implementing nutrition focused wellbeing programmes within corporate organisations across the UK.

If you’re eating balanced meals every few hours, do you actually need snacks?

“It is really important to listen to our hunger and fullness cues with regards to snacking. It can be all to easy to mindlessly snack and graze at our desk, but this can wreak havoc on our waist-line and productivity. There are no hard and fast rules as to when we should snack as we are all completely different and follow different lifestyles. However, as a general rule of thumb, a balanced meal should keep us satiated for at least a couple hours. If we feel hungry soon after eating, our meals may not be substantial enough.”

What are the signs you do actually need a snack?

“If hunger strikes and you’re not close to lunch or dinner, it could mean that a snack may be necessary to tide you over. It could also mean that you haven’t consumed enough at your previous meal.”

“When we go for too long without food, our blood sugar levels may drop and we may feel light-headed, anxious and irritable – otherwise known as that ‘hangry’ feeling.”

Is constantly snacking throwing our blood sugar out of whack? What are the signs our blood sugar is out of balance?

“It depends on the types of snacks being consumed. If high sugar, fast release snacks such as Haribo or high sugar drinks are being consumed these could well cause a sudden surge in blood sugar. However, opting for fibre-rich fruit with natural yoghurt which is a source of protein and fat will provide a more steady release of sugar into the bloodstream.”

Is it bad to constantly be in a ‘fed’ state, i.e. grazing throughout the day?

“Excess consumption of high sugar and high-fat snacks may lead to overconsumption of calories throughout the day and can result in negative health outcomes. Whilst some people may need to snack more than others, continuous grazing can have detrimental effects on long term health.”

Does tea and coffee count as a snack?

“If opting for a latte or cappuccino you would also receive protein and calories from milk, and this therefore could be considered as a small snack. In the short term, black coffee can raise blood glucose and free fatty acids, which can stimulate an insulin response. However, habitual consumption is associated with higher insulin sensitivity and lower risk of type 2 diabetes

What’s the best snack you can eat taking into account optimal macros intake?

“There are no set guidelines in relation to how many calories snacks should be. However, I usually tell clients 200-250 kcal per snack is generally a good portion size. If snacks are getting close to 400kcal then it may be considered more of a meal and the individual may be consuming too much energy throughout the day. Aim to include a protein source within snacks, which can help with satiety. Fibre-rich foods can also make a great choice and includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Increasing our fibre intake has repeatedly been shown to aid with satiety and maintaining a healthy body weight.”

If you’re really craving sugar, what are some healthy alternatives you can eat?

Frozen berry popsicles

(makes 8 popsicles) 27 calories per popsicle

245g natural yoghurt

200g berries

1 tbsp cinnamon

blend and freeze into ice lolly moulds

Pistachio Chocolate Banana Sushi

170 calories per chocolate banana

Dip one banana into good quality dark chocolate, place onto a plate and sprinkle over crushed pistachios. Slice into sushi pieces and then place into the fridge to set. This sushi dessert can be eaten with chopsticks.

Apple Slice Cookies

130 calories per apple slice cookie

1 red apple sliced, topped with 1 tbsp peanut or almond butter, dark chocolate chips, coconut flakes and walnut pieces.

What’s the biggest mistake when it comes to snacking? 

“Not being prepared, which often means reaching for less nourishing quick-fix options.”

Eating little and often boosts metabolism, true or false?

“This is false.”

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